Downtown Berkeley literary arts center to begin offering classes

Karen Chow/Staff

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Left Margin LIT — a new literary arts center located at 1600 Shattuck Ave. — is set to begin offering classes at the end of the month.

Co-founders Rachel Richardson and David Roderick said they want Left Margin LIT to provide a hub for anyone who is interested and curious to develop their writing. Since its opening, a diverse crowd of people — ranging from 20- to 80-year-olds — have enrolled to take classes at the center.

Left Margin LIT not only offers fiction, non-fiction and poetry workshops, but it also provides assistance for students writing college application essays. Richardson and Roderick also plan to offer more workshops in the future, such as one designed to help students apply to MFA programs.

These classes are taught by local authors as well as by Richardson and Roderick themselves, who are both published writers and have experience teaching in MFA programs.

“I think it’s a great opportunity for aspiring writers and people with a story to tell to get involved in a terrific literary community,” said Porter Shreve, a Bay Area author and workshop teacher at Left Margin LIT. “I wanted to be involved in any way I could be.”

University Press Books, a bookstore located on Bancroft Way, also holds reading and writing workshops to help members of the community improve their writing. Sorayya Carr, a partner at the bookstore, said providing events helps facilitate community discussions revolving around reading and a shared literary culture.

Richardson and Roderick said that although San Francisco has been the center for literature in the Bay Area, they started Left Margin LIT because they want to give the East Bay a space for its own literary culture to flourish.

“Because of our location near (UC Berkeley), there are tons of great writers,” Richardson said. “(UC Berkeley has a great) intellectual and literary community and we love being part of it.”

Roderick added that Left Margin LIT offers a more flexible approach to writing as opposed to the “regimented” writing classes offered in universities. Richardson said she believes age diversity, lack of administrative regulation and the idea of “bringing the campus off-campus” enrich the creative writing experience to an extent not possible in conventional university classroom settings.

Additionally, Left Margin LIT plans to offer a free reading series in which authors and members of the literary community will read out and discuss their works. Other planned expansions of Left Margin LIT’s services include writing bootcamps, book clubs, podcast interviews and master classes.

“Our focus is to give creative writers an experience tailored to their needs,” Roderick said. “The main goal is to be intimate, but also flexible and pragmatic.”

Classes at Left Margin LIT begin Sept. 26.

Staff writer Cassandra Vogel contributed to this article. 

Contact Justin Sidhu at [email protected].